Daniel Ayala's theatrical qualities, bravura

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Daniel Ayala is an eighteen-year-old up and coming ballet dancer from Bogotá, Columbia…

Daniel has a background in musical theatre but did not begin his ballet training until the age of fourteen. In just four years, he has developed the skills necessary for a professional ballet career.

As I watched Daniel’s audition video on his YouTube channel, I was particularly impressed by his seemingly perfect turnout and his relaxed, easygoing smile, which he maintains, even throughout the most difficult barre exercises.

Daniel began his training at the Ballarte escuela de ballet in Bogotá.

After competing in the Miami International Ballet Competition in 2019, Daniel caught the attention of several directors and teachers. He then began guesting in the United States with St. Lucie Ballet.

He has also guested with the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, and he has won awards in several prestigious ballet competitions.

Daniel has established a long term pas de deux partnership with fellow St. Lucie Ballet dancer Isabella McCool, with a pas de deux from La Fille Mal Gardée being one of their signature pieces.

With this pas de deux, Daniel and Isabella won first place in both the Universal Ballet Competition and the Youth American Grand Prix semifinals in Philadelphia.

Review of Daniel and Isabella's La Fille Mal Gardée pas de deux

The moment the pas begins, Daniel bounds onto the stage with a bright sauté arabesque, immediately displaying his bravura through his ballon.

But what stands out to me about Daniel and Isabella is not their technique, but rather that this pair demonstrates an expressiveness and theatricality beyond their years.

Daniel’s background in musical theatre seems to have served him well in this respect; unlike many young dancers who have not quite discovered their artistry on stage, Daniel embodies his character to the fullest extent.

Daniel supports Isabella through turns, lifts, and promenades with the grace and skill of any male professional. The technique is already there for these two young dancers — though further refinement and precision will surely come with age. But Daniel and Isabella’s ability to portray the sweet, giddy back-and-forth of young love — with both artistic abandon and commitment to their roles — is what struck me most about their pas.

Daniel's thoughts on the role of Colas

Daniel describes his character Colas, the young farmer in La Fille Mal Gardée and the love interest of Isabella's character Lise:

“He is a young man that falls in love with Lise and does everything he has in his power to be a sweetheart, to be a really nice guy, to make Lise fall in love with him,” says Daniel. “He is a very, very sweet and noble dancer.”

The pas de deux is filled with playful and flirtatious moments, which Daniel and Isabella portray with ease. The two young lovers tease each other and even play games of peek-a-boo.

The role of Colas is an important one to Daniel, for it was his debut into partnering work.

“This character means so much to me because this was the first pas I ever did,” says Daniel. “And [Isabella and I] had a great year with it. We went and performed in a bunch of places, competed everywhere, and got first place for this pas. It means a lot to me, just having the experience to portray [Colas], and him being my first pas — like this was the first pas I ever did in my life! He was so special to do, a really important character for me...and I hope I can do this ballet, too, when I am a professional dancer.”

Daniel describes how, without character portrayal, dancers risk turning ballet into a routine rather than an art.

“My favorite thing about this role is that [Colas is] very theatrical, so it’s not only dancing but it’s also very challenging in terms of the artistry. Because the pas, it’s very long — it’s very challenging in technique — but it’s also very demanding in your acting skills. So, I really love that I can open up myself into a new world of challenges, and I love acting, really. I think that ballet is an art and if you don’t know how to portray a character...it’s just a routine instead of an art.”

How Daniel is making the most of his time during the COVID-19 pandemic

Despite winning first place in the YAGP semifinals, Daniel and Isabella were unable to proceed to the finals in New York City. The competition was cancelled, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

But Daniel remains positive and continues to make the most of his time:

“[COVID-19 cancellations] have helped me, too,” says Daniel. “Because it has given me the time to catch up, to get ahead...and to focus more on the things that I was lacking...”

Most of all, he misses the rush of performing:

"I love taking classes and working every day, but that feeling of being on a stage? That’s...really not replaceable.”

Thank you for sharing your dancing with us Daniel! And thank you for chatting with us here at Wonder of Ballet. We wish you a bright future in your ballet career, and I am sure we will see you on the professional stage soon.

You can keep up with Daniel by following him on Instagram and YouTube. He and Isabella also share an Instagram account and a YouTube channel that you can follow as well, to keep up with their partnership.